By Erin L. Cox
What is the difference between literary criticism and recommending a book? Is there a difference between a book blogger and a book critic? Do they mean the same thing? Do they carry the same weight? And, which sells more books?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer any of these questions, but as a publicist who pitches both, relies on both to share their thoughts and opinions to encourage readers to buy my books, I do use them for different things. Though both share their opinions, I think of newspaper editors as a more classical approach to reviewing that might be defined as “impartial reporting.” For bloggers whose sights are often centered around a theme that ties to who they are individually, I think there is a lot of the personality of that blogger inserted in the review and it becomes more of a review plus a recommendation.
As newspapers started to lose readership the book pages started shrinking and a lot of the books that would appeal to a local audience for that paper (and might be defined as “midlist) were pushed to the side so that they could cover a book with a larger national interest. Bloggers can help bridge that gap by providing that local flare (along with booksellers who I mentioned previously are being used more and more to bring these fantastic local books to light).
Another great Tools of Change panel, “Literary Reviewing in a Digital Age,” featured one of my favorite critics (and recent video star), Ron Charles of The Washington Post. I’ve worked with and enjoyed Ron’s reviews for at least 12 of the 15 years that he’s been reviewing, but, as he pointed out on the panel, he has received celebrity largely due to his new video reviews . . . which, though fun, are clearly literary criticism with a touch of the blogger personality thrown in. Ron has emerged from behind the paper and put his face on his reviews in a way that few other people ever have. Though Ron might disagree on my vision for his reviews, I think it’s an interesting way to tie it all together in one medium that provides a little entertainment too.
I’d buy almost anything he reviews favorably because I trust him as a critic and as a person.
What makes you buy books? Which critics, bloggers, TV personalities, celebrities do you listen to see what to read?